We’ve all seen over the last few years just how quickly ISIL established themselves in a fractured Iraq and Syria. At this stage it really doesn’t matter who or what caused the fracturing…but the lack of Government cohesion alone allowed the fight for a Caliph to take place. In addition, it took an almighty effort with expensive (in blood and treasure) Western military support to break it up.
Break it up it did, but it didn’t eradicate it…just like squeezing a tired balloon, the air (ISIL) moved to another location.
As for ISIL in the Middle East, and their fight for a Caliph there, well time will tell if they pop up in strength somewhere else.
But what about Afghanistan? A country so fractured that it could indeed be several countries in one. The Government and the country’s President can’t even keep the people in its Capital safe. Years and years of American led Governance, military strategies (or lack of), and the all-important bags of $$$$$, have allowed certain Afghans to feed off the aforementioned and jump from side to side to suit themselves, their families and their tribes.
The Americans and their Coalition partners came to rid the Taliban and in turn rid the AQ training grounds…but 17 years later, we have the Afghan Taliban getting stronger, other (Afghan) networks continuing their Regional influence, AQ hanging on in there, and a huge potential game-changing problem of a strengthening ISIL movement that has achieved a foothold since around 2014. ISIL recruits train and operate through absolute viciousness as we’re all very well aware. Afghans, especially young Afghans with very little or nil education are easy pickings to bring into the fold. In certain areas of today’s Eastern Afghanistan, there are daily battles between ISIL and the Afghan Taliban for territorial one upmanship…with Taliban fighters choosing to jump sides, a traditional Afghan trait of the last 40 years, if you want to remain alive and protect your family. This is why it’s so important to find a political solution with the Afghan Taliban before the situation morphs into something far worse.
I’ve walked, driven and flown over Eastern Afghanistan’s terrain including both sides of the Durand Line. You could hide an army in some of those long deep gorges, from Nuristan Province down to Khost Province and over into the Tribal Areas.
In my view, if the American backed Afghan Government continue fighting the Taliban, AQ, other local networks, and now a rising ISIL, I feel that ISIL will only get stronger through the lack of countrywide cohesion to prey on. Afghans need, and more than deserve a stable country in which to live out their lives.
American and Coalition actors need to look forward with clarity and ask themselves…”would they prefer an Afghanistan with a shared Government with the inclusion of the Afghan Taliban, or an Afghanistan that could well end up having a large established ISIL Caliphate?”
By Bob Shepherd
Bob is a best selling author, security advisor and 20-year veteran of Britain’s elite Special Air Service. With 20-years of private security work to his credit, he has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as both an SAS soldier and private citizen. Bob is a regular media commentator on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, Al Jazeera English, BBC Radio and various newspapers and magazines. He also shares his insights on security politics through his blog; www.bobshepherdauthor.com